Unlike the U.S., Britain obviously still has an opposition party.
Labour has called for an urgent investigation into the use of anti-terror powers to detain David Miranda, the partner of a Guardian journalist who interviewed US National Security Agency whistleblower Edward Snowden.
Yvette Cooper, the shadow home secretary, said ministers must find out whether anti-terror laws had been “misused”, after Miranda was held for nine hours by authorities at Heathrow airport under the Terrorism Act.
His detention has caused “considerable consternation” and the Home Office must explain how this can be justified as appropriate and proportionate, she said.
Another MP raised the pertinent question.
Vaz said he was not aware that personal property could be confiscated under the laws. “What is extraordinary is they knew he was the partner [of Greenwald] and therefore it is clear not only people who are directly involved are being sought but also the partners of those involved,” he said.
“Bearing in mind it is a new use of terrorism legislation to detain someone in these circumstances … I’m certainly interested in knowing, so I will write to the police to ask for the justification of the use of terrorism legislation – they may have a perfectly reasonable explanation. But if we are going to use the act in this way … then at least we need to know so everyone is prepared.”
Another aspect of this abusive tantrum is that it was so egregious.
Schedule 7, which applies only at airports, ports and border areas, controversially allows officers to stop, search, question and detain individuals. Miranda was held for nine hours, the maximum the law allows before officers must release or formally arrest the individual.
According to official figures, most examinations under schedule 7 – over 97% – last less than an hour, and only one in 2,000 people detained are kept for more than six hours. It has been widely criticised for giving police broad powers under the guise of anti-terror legislation to stop and search individuals without prior authorisation or reasonable suspicion – setting it apart from other police powers.
This unprecedented fit of rage has convinced Andrew Sullivan, that these “…cumulative revelations have exposed this program as, at a minimum, dangerous to core liberties and vulnerable to rank abuse.”
In this respect, I can say this to David Cameron. Thank you for clearing the air on these matters of surveillance. You have now demonstrated beyond any reasonable doubt that these anti-terror provisions are capable of rank abuse. Unless some other facts emerge, there is really no difference in kind between you and Vladimir Putin. You have used police powers granted for anti-terrorism and deployed them to target and intimidate journalists deemed enemies of the state. You have proven that these laws can be hideously abused. Which means they must be repealed. You have broken the trust that enables any such legislation to survive in a democracy. By so doing, you have attacked British democracy itself. What on earth do you have to say for yourself? And were you, in any way, encouraged by the US administration to do such a thing?
Good questions all, yet I wonder if asking them now makes us criminals in the eyes of our impulsive overlords.